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Mike Collier, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, speaks at a campaign rally. Photo: Courtesy of Mike Collier campaign

Making his third bid for statewide office, Mike Collier tells Axios he's running for lieutenant governor, jumping into the Democratic primary for a seat that's been held by Republicans for more than two decades.

State of play: It comes as no shock that Collier's throwing his hat in the ring. In 2018, the Houston-area accountant lost by fewer than 5 percentage points to Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is now seeking his third term. Since then, he's been a vocal critic of Patrick and launched an exploratory committee in April that he called more of a “confirmatory" committee.

"We came very close in 2018," Collier tells Axios. "I pretty much made the decision right after election day: Keep the network and the infrastructure."

Through a mix of procedure and politics, the lieutenant governor controls what bills make it to the floor of the state Senate.

By the numbers: Collier outperformed every Democratic candidate in two-thirds of the state's 254 counties in 2018, including former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz the same year.

Of note: O'Rourke has said he's considering a run for governor in 2022.

  • Collier's strengths were in rural counties, while O'Rourke won the five biggest counties in Texas.
  • Collier hopes O'Rourke will run at the top of the ticket because the pair's mix of rural and urban voters could position them for a win: "There's a higher likelihood of success for both of us," Collier tells Axios.

Yes, but: Collier will first have to face Matthew Dowd in the Democratic primary, a former George W. Bush reelection strategist who later switched parties. Dowd previously worked for Bob Bullock, the last Democrat to be elected lieutenant governor in the state.

  • And other Democrats could very well jump in this race.

A rematch against Patrick would mean facing the Republican's $23 million war chest and name recognition for a second time. Plus, Democrats haven't won a statewide election in Texas since 1994.

  • So far, Collier has raised more than $1 million, nearly four times the amount raised at this point in his 2018 campaign.
  • Patrick, who was first elected in 2014 and has pushed the Senate further to the right, largely ignored Collier in his 2018 reelection bid and refused to debate him.

His platform: Like in 2018, Collier is framing himself as a policy wonk, businessman and "problem solver." He said he'll focus on funding public education, lowering property taxes, reopening hospitals in rural counties and expanding Medicaid.

  • He's also urging lawmakers "to fix the damn grid," referring to the Texas power grid, which failed during the February storms and left millions without power.
  • Texas lawmakers also passed red meat items like abortion restrictions and the permitless carry of firearms earlier this year, meaning Democrats like Collier will have to take on wedge issues that could polarize some voters.

His campaign team includes former Biden staffers, such as ad maker Rick Fromberg, finance lead Crystal Perkins and pollsters Matt Hogan and Mayra Cuevas. Collier also hired Courtney Grisby, former Texas Democratic Party African American Organizing director, as his senior adviser.

What's next: Collier will kick off his campaign with a statewide tour this month, with the first stop in Austin on Monday, hosting outdoor-only gatherings with fully vaccinated guests.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.